March 7, 2010 “What Kind of Action?” – Luke 6:1-11

Gicky Soriano tells the story of a mother who went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church.[1]

  1. “I’m not going.”
  2. “Why not?”
  3. “I’ll give you two good reasons
  • 1) they don’t like me and
  • 2) I don’t like them.”
  1. “Son, I’ll give you two good reasons why you ARE going to go to church:
  2. One: you’re 54 years old
  3. And Two: you’re the pastor.”

I’ve heard a lot of reasons for going to church and excuses for not going, but his is the best!

What to do on Sunday.  Every once in a while I get caught running to the store on Sunday.  I remember last summer running into one of you at Wally Ville on Sunday.  You were embarrassed because you hadn’t been at church that morning and I was embarrassed because I was doing a quick pick something up.

I fondly remember Sundays when I was growing up.  My Dad would drop us off at Sunday School, bring my grandmother to church and pick us all up after church.  Then there was the obligatory Sunday dinner at my grandmothers where we were always told, “now, let’s not have any un-pleasantness at dinner.”  It was pretty quiet at dinner because my brothers and I couldn’t sit at the table and be pleasant to one another so in order to follow the letter of the law we said nothing.  I’m sure that never happens at your house.

Sunday afternoons were spent pretty much sitting around in our good clothes until my brother ran outside and got a hole in his pants and got in trouble.  Week in, week out that was my Sabbath until I got to be a teen and spent time at my friend  Sue’s house – where things were pretty much the same except we talked at dinner.

There was no temptation to run to the store, because everything was closed.  So, given my walk down memory lane what’s a girl to do when she runs out of something she needs, or wants, on Sunday?  Just what is acceptable to do on Sunday and what is really breaking the rules?

As we all know Sunday is nowhere like it was when I was growing up, not to mention when Jesus was living.  Sabbath has come to mean pretty much nothing for most of us, except for an optional hour at church.  Today our Sunday afternoons are spent catching up on stuff we didn’t get done during the week and watching a little football, baseball, basketball and hockey-ball.

In our scripture today Luke gives us a picture of how Jesus viewed the Sabbath and how the religious leaders thought the Sabbath should be observed.

It’s important to remember that the Pharisees were zealous for the Law.  They believed that it was their responsibility was to follow the law to the letter.  The problem was the law had become an illogical collection human’s interpretation of God’s laws.

Ralph Wilson explains it like this:

Imagine two concentric circles. The inner circle represents the Mosaic Law as it appears in the Bible. The outer circle represents a series of rules interpreting the Law. The Pharisees felt that the Law was so holy, that they needed to place a “hedge” or “fence” around it so that no one would inadvertently break the Law.

This “hedge” was the “traditions of the elders,” a body of oral law later written down by Rabbis in the Second Century which later formed the Talmud.  The idea was if you kept the oral law, you would automatically keep the Mosaic Law.

What resulted was a Law-centered religion consumed with keeping the Law for its own sake, rather than on the more important principles of: love for one’s neighbor, real justice, and mercy.[2]

In the area of Sabbath observance, the Pharisees had an especially large number of rules. Observant Jews observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening.  They seek to honor God by observing a Sabbath rest.  But the Pharisees and scribes began to define what was and was not work, and some of their rules were just plain silly.

Rules and regulations evolve and can become unreasonable to the point of being completely ridiculous.  I read a story of a man in Colorado who plays Santa Claus every Christmas season.  Every year he goes to his clinic to get his flu shot.  Remember a year or so ago when there was a shortage of flu vaccine and it was being administered and regulated with rules.  Well, at his clinic the man was denied his flu shot because he was 62 years old and not the permissible age of 65.  He tried to reason with the administrative authorities, “But ten thousand kids sit on my lap every Christmas!”  Their reply: Rules are rules and you don’t get a flu shot.[3]

In the case of “the Sabbath police” plucking heads of grain was a form of harvesting and rubbing the grain in their hands was threshing or grinding.  That makes as much sense as not giving Santa his flu shot.

Then there is the issue of healing someone on the Sabbath.  Even the Pharisees believed that if someone was dying they could be attended to.  ER medicine only.  But to heal someone of some long term malady wasn’t acceptable.  Jesus not only defended his disciples about the grain, but really slapped the Pharisees’ hands when he healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, right in front of them.

Something’s going on here that doesn’t meet the eye.  What is it that Luke is trying to tell us, without saying it?  Luke is beginning to set the reader and hearers of this story up for what is soon to come – Jesus’  rejection, arrest, conviction, and execution by his opponents.

  • Law by law,
  • case by case,
  • person by person
  • the authorities are building a case against Jesus
  • and the way he refused to obey the acceptable norms of the religious institution of the day was part of their process.
  • Each of Jesus’ infractions was essential not only to finding him guilty of disobeying the law,
  • but it was part of the reason the religious leaders began to hate him more and more.
  • Every anti-establishment act he performed was another nail in his coffin, so to speak.

But aside from Jesus’ conflict with the authorities, and his trumping them with their own legalistic interpretation, we are left with the question.  Just what is the Sabbath for and how should we honor it?

Keeping the Sabbath is not an ancient, stupid idea meant to burden people; it’s supposed to be a blessing.

I know how challenging life is.

  • Between work, errands, family life, and other responsibilities, it’s all we can do to get by.
  • There’s never enough time to do what we think we need to get done.
  • Our lives have become overscheduled, overburdened, over anxious and over before we know it,
  • because we try to stuff so much unimportant stuff in our lives that there’s no room for what’s really important, much less time for God.
  • God wants a better life for us
  • and part of having a better life means honoring the Sabbath.

So, what kind of action suits the Sabbath best?

  • Well, my first thought is show up at church.
  • Come for Christian Education, worship and fellowship.
  • Go home and have an easy lunch.
  • Take a nap (Sue’s parents took a nap every Sunday after dinner).
  • Play with your kids.
  • Talk to your husband or wife.
  • Call a friend.
  • Visit your family.
  • Turn off the TV, computer, cell phone, text messaging and any other technology you have (at least for a while).
  • DON’T
    • Don’t clean the house,
    • water the plants,
    • do the laundry or anything else you can put off.
  • If someone comes and the house isn’t the way you like it what’s the worst that can happen?
    • They’ll think you’re a slob.  So what.
    • If you’ve spent time with your spouse,
    • If you’ve listened to your kids whine about why can’t they be online, texting, or on the phone – at least you’ve spent some time together.
    • If you’ve chased them out of the house to play you’ve done something good for their health.
    • If they’re bored promise them they can clean the bathroom after school tomorrow ; give them a book to read; or go for a walk with them.
    • If you’ve taken a nap they’ll irritate you less and increase the possibility you can survive another hectic week.

Those all seem like good actions for the Sabbath.

But every Sabbath isn’t the same so sometimes go a little farther.  Do good and help someone.

Friday and Saturday Jim and I helped chaperone a Presbytery Middle School Mission Event.  These youth spent all day in a myriad of various places helping other people.

I learned three things that I’m not going to forget:

  1. Even if I have an air mattress I’m going to bring an electric blanket because air, in an air mattress on a cement floor, gets cold and I can’t sleep when I’m cold.
  2. 2. Even on Sunday helping someone is a blessing for them and for me.
  3. When I do something not in accordance with what I think God would like me to do on the Sabbath, I’m not going to beat myself up with guilt and anxiety.
  4. I’m simply going to be intentional about scheduling Sabbath rest another day.

You see God didn’t necessarily begin creation on Monday and finish on Saturday taking Sunday off.  God’s intention is that we take time to worship, rest and enjoy the lives we’ve been given.

Don’t get hung-up on the silly debates about what-day-of-the-week-the-Sabbath-really-isSunday may not be your Sabbath, your day of rest.   What really matters is not which day you honor it, but that you honor it!

The Sabbath is a gift.

  • It’s a gift from God for your labor and giving to others.
  • It’s a gift to renew you.
  • It’s a gift to remind you of the love God has for you.
  • It’s a gift to help prepare you for the week to come.

Look at traditional Jewish homes….They work 6 hard days a week, and have been doing so for thousands of years.  Life in Palestine during Jesus’ life wasn’t exactly a happy place.  And yet, on the Sabbath, what did they do?

  • They lit a candle….
  • Opened a bottle of wine…
  • Said a prayer for having made it through another week…
  • Got together with friends…
  • Sang some songs…
  • Kissed their children….
  • Loved their spouses…..
  • That is the sign of a blessed, refreshed people![4]

The Sabbath is NOT the day to get caught-up on all the chores you didn’t have time to get to during the week.

  • It’s a time to honor God
  • It’s a time to rest….
  • It’s a time to have fun….
  • It’s a time to DE-STRESS
  • It’s a time to take-up a hobby.
  • It’s a time to just – BE

You know what kind of actions God wants on the Sabbath –

  • healthy rest
  • and re-creation for your body and your soul.

Consider it a weekly gift from God to you.

Open it as you would a gift and enjoy it.

Because if you don’t soon it will be too late.


[1] Gicky Soriano, “Restoring the Sabbath Rest” part 1, http://hubpages.com/hub/Restoring-the-Sabbath-Rest-Part-1By Gicky Soriano.

[2] Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, “Lord of the Sabbath”, http://www.jesuswalk.com/books/luke.htm.

[3] Gicky Soriano, “Restoring the Sabbath Rest” part 1, http://hubpages.com/hub/Restoring-the-Sabbath-Rest-Part-1By Gicky Soriano.

[4] Ibid.

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